Thursday, July 20, 2017
e.tv dumps costly WWE as SuperSport decides to picks up the wrestling rights for DStv subscribers in Africa after 16 years.
e.tv has finally decided to drop the costly WWE wrestling that's been a popular staple and synonymous with the red-letter channel since its start-up almost two decades ago, with WWE that will now be moving back to DStv after 16 years with SuperSport that has decided to take over the rights from September.
South Africa's only commercial free-to-air broadcaster has had great success with, and got big ratings from, various World Wresting Entertainment (WWE) shows across its schedule for almost 20 years after branding itself "the home of WWE" in 2001.
It has however come at a price on two fronts - with e.tv that has decided to end its WWE programming strategy that increasingly became more and more expensive.
Firstly the WWE rights for shows like WWE Wrestling Raw and WWE Wrestling SmackDown have become increasingly expensive for e.tv the past few years with diminishing returns in terms of viewership.
While Raw, SmackDown and other WWE specials for over a decade and a half pulled massive audiences to e.tv, ratings for wrestling on the channel have slowly diminished since the heydey Sundays when millions of South African viewers sat transfixed.
Raw and SmackDown are both still super-shows and top 10 e.tv programming but their ratings power has steadily dimmed since the mega slamdunk days of John Cena.
Raw pulls a mighty 2.66 million viewers and SmackDown 2.05 million viewers - down from when it carried the overall e.tv ratings crown.
For parity, in June the local film Sarafina grabbed 1.97 million viewers for e.tv - almost the same number of eyeballs but for programming that e.tv pays much less for that American wrestling.
Secondly e.tv realised that the South African free-to-air audience is maturing and getting more sophisticated in terms of their viewing taste.
While WWE wrestling as a type of one-trick pony has brought and still brings the viewers to the yard, e.tv has to think of the future and diversify its programming offering if it's going to compete in South Africa's every-increasing multi-channel TV-universe.
At some point e.tv could no longer almost solely rely on WWE and its two soaps, Rhythm City and Scandal! to prop up its ratings - and that inflection point has now been reached.
e.tv wants to use the money saved from WWE to further diversity its programming line-up with hit international shows ranging from Empire, The Fixer (Scandal in the US) and How to Get Away with Murder, to local drama series.
Indicate of how e.tv wants to try and broaden its audience, is the decision to replace wrestling on Saturdays and Sundays with family movies - cheaper content as part of studio output deals, courting a broader base. Wrestling during the week will be replaced on e.tv with series like the American drama series House.
For e.tv - the chance to broaden its schedule
With e.tv dropping WWE, the wrestling as a niche sport, has now been picked up by SuperSport, reverting back to being the pay-TV offering it was before e.tv took it over from SuperSport. Now DStv subscribers who want to see WWE can see it on MultiChoice's satellite-pay TV platform.
e.tv says the decision not to renew its long-standing contract with the WWE wasn't taken lightly.
"e.tv has been the home of WWE in South Africa since 2001, but international rights contracts like this are complex. After reviewing our renewal options, we decided to focus instead on the direction our entertainment line-up has been taking over the last 12 months," says Marlon Davids, e.tv managing director.
While e.tv has seen huge ratings thanks to wrestling, the channel now wants its viewership growth to come from a broader offering and more programming genres.
"We're thrilled with the way our viewership numbers have grown, thanks to the local and international drama, comedy and reality shows which have found a home on the e-family of channels," says Marlon Davids.
"As sad as we are to see WWE leave its home in South Africa, we're confident that our audience will keep embracing the channel's new direction and continue to be entertained by the fresh and engaging content which e.tv and the e-family of channels currently hosts - and has plans to expand in the future."
Wrestling live in SuperSport with same-day re-airs
With e.tv opting not to exercise its right to continue, SuperSport got the opportunity to take it over with the pay-TV sports unit signing a multi-year agreement to move WWE programming from e.tv to MultiChoice's DStv in 50 countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
From Monday 28 August SuperSport will now show Raw and SmackDown, as well as the WWE specials, WrestleMania and SummerSlam.
Raw will be broadcast on the SuperSport 3, SuperSport 4, SuperSport 9 and SuperSport 10 channels on Tuesdays, with SmackDown on Wednesdays on the same channels. Both will be shown live with same-day re-airs.
All wrestling specials like WrestleMania, SummerSlam, the Survivor Series and Royal Rumble will also be shown on these channels, also live, with same-day re-airs, available with English commentary and on demand.
"WWE is a global phenomenon, so securing the broadcast rights for SuperSport is a terrific coup," says Gideon Khobane, SuperSport CEO.
"At long last our viewers will get to share in this entertainment spectacle in high definition," says Gideon Khobane, although e.tv has been showing WWE in high definition already on DStv and on Platco Digital's OpenView HD (OVHD) platform.
"Televising WWE programming live in sub-Saharan Africa for the first time is an important milestone for us, and we look forward to working with SuperSport to cultivate new fans in the region," says Ed Wells, WWE executive vice president, international.